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Playboy boss Scott Flanders loses Freedom

Ranger Rich

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Back in 2009, Freedom Communications CEO Scott Flanders had a big decision to make: Should he call his thick mustache his "Nose Neighbor," "The Soup Strainer" or "Dr. Fuzzenstein?"

Oops. That was NED Flanders from The Simpsons. D'oh!

Scott Flanders' big decision was whether to keep his job and rule over bastions of journalism including our village's Gazette newspaper, which was then owned by Freedom, or jump ship and join babbling Hugh Hefner's struggling Playboy magazine empire.

Either way — given the Gazette's lineup of since-fired editor Jeff Thomas, gun kook and editorial wizard Wayne Laugesen, and a host of other interesting newsroom folks — Flanders was going to be around a lot of boobs.

He picked Playboy Enterprises, Inc., becoming the first CEO outside the Hefner family. (The 163-year-old Hef celebrated this milestone by drooling on his 19-year-old girlfriend's shoulder and asking if President Martin Van Buren had arrived at the mansion yet. Then Hef wandered outside and somehow got his thing stuck in the garden hose.)

So Flanders settled in at Playboy and almost immediately began doing what Freedom Communications did best: He began firing people. Today, Playboy has 165 employees, down from 585 when Flanders arrived — a 72 percent staff reduction.

And if you want to know how success is measured in the corporate world these days, there's this: When Flanders took over, Playboy magazine was losing $12 million a year, according to a Wall Street Journal story. Today, thanks to the same brilliant economic strategies that eventually turned Freedom into a Chapter 11 joke, the magazine loses only $6 million a year.

(Word on the street is that Playboy will soon launch a magazine edition targeting married men. It's the same as the regular magazine, except the centerfold will be the same every month.)

But it's not just Flanders' acute business sense that had the Wall Street Journal excited. From the story: "At [a] 2011 party, Mr. Flanders allegedly didn't observe the expected boundaries between a CEO and female employees, according to some current and former employees who said he was hitting on Playmates and other young women."

A female worker filed a complaint, Playboy Enterprises investigated and, as a result, 276-year-old Hugh Hefner was given just enough Viagra so he would stop peeing on his shoes.

No, what actually happened was that CEO Flanders was ordered to undergo sensitivity training and to honor — I am not kidding — Playboy's "zero tolerance policy" banning unwanted advances. (The exception to that policy would be when Hugh Hefner wants to play "Who Can Find Mr. Wrinkly?")

Oh, and Flanders was also accused of heaping verbal abuse upon his staff. The magazine's editorial director, Jimmy Jellinek, said Flanders could sometimes be a "terrible SOB."

"I don't believe that I ever crossed the line into abuse," Flanders told the WSJ, "but that doesn't mean it wasn't felt as abusive toward the recipient."

Translation: I don't think I'm an ass*^$#, but a lot of other people do.

Anyway, Playboy turns 60 this year and, still guided by Wonderboy Flanders, hopes to revive itself and actually make money for the equity firm that now holds a major share of the empire.

The company has even brought in a "sexual anthropologist" to help change the content and make it popular with a generation that grew up with free Internet pornography, according to the WSJ.

As a bonus, this sexual anthropologist has determined that Mr. Hefner (he's actually 86) is still able to climb the stairs, open the bedroom door and make passionate love to — I am not kidding — his new wife, 26-year-old Crystal Harris.

If he could only remember where he lives.

Seriously, editorial director Jellinek bragged to the WSJ reporter about the new trend toward the natural look, holding a mock-up of Playboy's March issue and saying, "There is not a single fake breast in this issue."

If that news disturbs you and you still enjoy an occasional sighting of a big, unnatural-looking boob, don't fret. You can still catch a glimpse of Mayor Steve Bach storming into a City Council meeting.

Rich Tosches also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.

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